Last Christmas, a security camera caught a FedEx courier casually throwing a carton containing a jumbo computer monitor over a six-foot fence. If you remember this incident, thank social media.
The video first found its way to YouTube, where it received more than two million views. Then, it went viral on Twitter and countless blogs. Local TV picked it up; and eventually the networks played it. Soon, Jay Leno and David Letterman were joking about the incident on late night TV. The country was having a conversation about the FedEx brand that company executives neither started nor desired.
For CEOs in the age of social media, the only question is this: Will the conversation take place with or without you? Either way, it will happen.
We are likely approaching a tipping point for social media in the enterprise. Today, many CEOs believe that social media is—at best—little more than window dressing and—at worst—a distraction for already over-stretched employees. But by 2013, an increasing number of CEOs will awaken to evidence that social media is where the most important conversations, internal and external, take place and that real business benefits can be realized by harnessing the relationship-building power of social media platforms.
The business case for social media is coming into focus. According to an analysis of 4,200 companies by the McKinsey Global Institute, social technologies stand to unlock between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion of value by 2016. Far from a mere time sink, social media can deliver a surprising boost to productivity, customer development, collaboration with partners, product design, branding and reputation-management across global organizations.
Firms that outperform their peers are 30 percent more likely to identify openness—often characterized by a greater use of social media as a key enabler of collaboration and innovation—as a key influence on their organization, according to an IBM study of 1,709 CEOs.